Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ole' Wise Goat

Fine - written by Davy Rasmussen 
Song Lyrics

Sharon and I on a summer float down the Caney
"This is the Caney Fork River, this is the river they dammed to make our lake." I heard Mom say to her sister Ruth as we were making our way back to our Cabin on Center Hill Lake after picking her up at the airport .   My little sister gave me that "here we go again" look and rolled her eyes.

"Oh really?" Aunt Ru says while looking out the window of our 1964 Chevy van at the river we had just crossed over.

Mom continues, "Yes, but of course it is much smaller down here because we are below the dam."

"Wow!" Ru says without much expression in her voice.

My sister whispered to me, "Do you think she's forgotten about last year when Pop did it?"

The year before Aunt Ru was visiting with us for the Christmas holiday and on our way from the airport we crossed the Caney Fork river five times, as always.   At each bridge Pop would share his little nugget of information about how the Caney Fork is the river that is dammed to make Center Hill lake, which was our back yard.   Within a ten mile stretch of I-40 each time we crossed the river he would repeat the exact same thing and to our youthful surprise, so would Aunt Ru.   On the last bridge we all died laughing as she realized the broken record that she and Pop had been playing.  

Well sure enough, a year later and Mom got her too.  At least on two of the bridges before she caught on.   It became a tradition from then on, with Aunt Ru as well as anytime we crossed that river together and alone.  Even now some thirty three years later my mind still repeats it and makes me smile each time I cross that beautiful river.

As a man at 46, it amazes me how that one body of water has been a compass point along my path for so long.   It has been pulling me here my whole life.   I remember the many trips as a kid that we would take from the Cabin into Nashville and I would stare out the window and somehow seem to loose myself in the rolling hills of Smith County.   As we wound our way off the Cumberland Plateau and crossed the first bridge over the Caney, I always looked up river and focused on the old steel railroad bridge which magically seemed to spark my daydreams.     My eyes would gloss over and slowly I emerged myself into the world of hollows and mountain pastures and hillside farms.  By the third bridge I knew to look off to the right side at the little farmhouse that was set in the perfect valley and I saw myself there working the land.  That was me on the tractor mowing the field.   On the last bridge I would look back to the right, down at the rapids and  imagine floating the river and what it would feel like to let the current take me.  I became Tom Sawyer and stood on my boat made of  tied together logs and would float all the way to where the Caney reaches the Cumberland River and where the Cumberland joins the Mississippi all the way out to sea.

Sometimes my daydream would end abruptly when my sister would yell out "Mountain Goat!".  They lived along the bluffs and were very mysterious to us.   Sometimes I wondered if they only appeared to my sister and I.   We would drive on past with both our noses stuck to the window looking up at the old gray goat with narley looking horns.  He would glance down at us with his wise eyes as if he was granting us passage through his kingdom.

After leaving home, making my first college attempt and settling into an apartment in Nashville, the Caney Fork River and the Smith County line became a finish line of sorts.  Perhaps more like a beginning line.   Each time I would leave the crazy world of trying to make it in Nashville and head back to the cabin to visit with Mom something would change inside as soon as the first hill rose out from the ground of the Nashville basin.  By the time I crossed the first Caney bridge my breath changed and the windows went down. A sense of peace eased through my mind and each time I looked out and saw that old familiar railroad bridge, I would return to that place inside that said to keep dreaming.  

I was on my way to play a music gig in middle Tennessee and had my guitar,  keyboards and all my equipment in the back of my gray 1976 Honda Civic. It was my first car and I had just taken the last pennies out of my checking account to have the oil changed before my 200 mile journey.   Right when I rolled over that first hill on I-40 that lets you know that the Cumberland foothills are around the corner my oil light came on.  "That's strange.  I just had it filled.  I guess it's just something else not working right in this old beat up hatchback."  I affirm myself and drive on.   I start noticing that I was loosing power and then the most god-awful sound ever came from the engine.   Metal on metal.  I pulled over and opened the hood,  checked the oil and it was dry as a bone.  In complete despair I pushed the car further off the road and leaned up against the road sign that says "Welcome to Smith County" and started praying.

Someone stopped and pushed me and my car on the side of the interstate for ten miles up to the Gordonsville exit and into a gas station parking lot.   I did get a lift back to Nashville with all my stuff, though my car lived at that exit for over three years.

I bet that ole' wise mountain goat was probably sitting up on a cliff nearby looking down at me saying "What else do I have to do to make you realize that this is where you should be?"  

Today the river is my play ground.  Nestled in the beautiful foothills of Smith County is my home.   The water I drink comes from the river.   There's no better day than a warm summer afternoon floating in a Canoe with my wife Sharon.   Our freezer is full with Rainbow trout that swam in the Caney.  I've made countless wonderful memories taking family and friends fishing on this river and my favorite spot and fishing hole..... just so happens to be right below that old steel railroad bridge.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

And Cue The Antlers

One Way Or the Other - written by Davy Rasmussen 
Song Lyrics
It was still pitch black and only the beam of our head lamps flickered through the woods as we crept slowly up the mountain side.   The incline was far better than a strong cup of coffee to get the blood flowing.  I stopped so the couple joining me could catch their breath and we all inhaled the crisp 28 degree morning air.

"Oh, it's going to be a good day!" I heard Wayne whisper to his wife Gina.

It's the first morning of deer season and a few moments later I had gotten our B&B guests settled into a cozy thicket where they'll almost certainly see some activity as soon as the sun rises.

A few times a year we share the hollow with guests that are outdoor enthusiasts and that we have gotten to know and love over the years.  We create all inclusive weekends filled with plenty of time in the woods and delicious meals cooked in our cast iron pots on the wood stove.   It's a fun metamorphosis to see the hollow convert  from romantic B&B weekends with white dresses and wedding cakes to camouflage and hunting stands.   I am not a sport hunter and really consider myself more of a "harvester" of sorts.   All the guests we invite have similar values and are hunting for food and not for the kill.  To me it is more about the time in the woods.  Time to be still, quiet and listen.

After we each whispered good luck, I slowly moved on through the forest working my way towards a trail that leads to the top of our highest hilltop.  My eyes were adjusted enough to the dark that I flipped off my head lamp and began my assent up to my view from 1200 ft above sea level.   The crunch of the autumn leaves and my heart beat were the only sounds I could hear.  I finally reached the top and made a little nest at the base of an Oak tree and positioned myself facing east so I could watch the sunrise.   The echo of my footsteps drifted away in the morning breeze.  The camouflage I was wearing blended the shape of my body to the trunk of the trees.  The only imprint my existence was making at this moment was the exchange the oak tree and I were sharing with oxygen and carbon dioxide.  With each blink the sky became lighter and the shadows of the giants around me took shape into a canopy of trees.   As the horizon caught fire, a breeze clipped along the mountain top as if it were coming directly from the rising sun.  My body temperature had long cooled from the hike up and I was longing to see that beautiful ball of red hot fire poke her head out and warm my face.   One inhale, exhale and a slow blink later and there she was.  

"Lights, camera, action", I thought to myself as me and the woods along with all the beautiful creatures in it, slowly rolled on this earth of ours towards the sun.  

Once the sun had cleared the horizon the life around me awoke too.   Birds of every feather were singing.  Squirrels and chipmunks began scurrying along the forest floor looking for seeds.  It was like I wasn't even there and got to be that fly on the wall to witness the magnificence of morning.   I turned my head in the other direction and noticed a little spike buck deer standing less than 100 ft away.  He was content eating acorns and popping his head up every now and then to see if he was still alone.   I was close enough that I could hear the morsels of the nuts slipping out from his lips and hitting the ground.   He slowly walked on past me and faded into the woods and the morning sunrise.  And just as if Nature wanted to end this beautiful morning production with a slow curtain fall and applause, the wind picked back up and hit the tops of the golden Maple trees scattered around me.   The yellow and orange leaves one by one detached from their summer home and began their flight to the earth.   Even though the ground was already covered with inches of fallen leaves, on this morning I felt so privileged to be the eyes that got to soak in the many different dances of a drifting Maple leaf.

We all met back at the bed and breakfast later in the day where Sharon had prepared a scrumptious meal for all the Hunter-Gatherers that came home empty-handed    That afternoon we all slipped back into the woods to hunt until sunset and as I took my place on a little knoll covered with Osage and Popular trees, Nature decided it was time for Act II.... though this time she decided that the show should be a comedy.

This time things begin the same.  My footsteps fade, squirrels pop out to stock pile a few goodies; I blend in with the forest and get mesmerized by it's beauty and a few hours pass by.  Off to my right in the distance I hear the rustling of leaves and first think, "Man, I should have brought my squirrel gun."  I turn and face in that direction, still leaning up against a Poplar tree, and I can tell that this was more than a couple of squirrels playing.  I remembered the fresh scrapes and rubs that I had scouted out a few weeks earlier nearby and instantly visualized a large poppa buck chasing his doe through the woods towards me.  My heart starts to beat a little harder in anticipation of what is coming steadily in my direction.   A few seconds later a large Pileated Woodpecker circled directly above my head and then landed in a dead Ash tree about 50 ft away.

 "Oh, this is a good sign."  I whisper to myself and my smile turns into a confident smirk.

The stampede of leaves and movement is oh so close now.   I raise my gun in the direction it is coming hoping to get a view through my scope,  and just then I hear a crunch directly behind me.  And then another crunch.  "I've got a deer standing a few feet from my ass. Should I turn around?"  I decide that based on the sound of the crunch vs the massive combustion coming in the other direction that I wouldn't turn and would hold for the monster about to emerge.   My heart almost popped out of my camo jacket when a squirrel came out of the side of a hollowed out locust stump about five feet from my head and sat their looking straight at me.  

"This is good sign." I again affirm myself.  

Another crunch closer behind me and then in front of me I can see a shape moving quickly behind some brush about 200 ft away.

" yourself Mr. Buck...."   And he did!

Well, he wasn't actually a buck.... or a deer for that matter. I was swindled by a cunning flock of wild turkeys.  My smirk quickly turned into a scowl of determination as I remembered the other deer that was still standing on the back side of me.   Inch by inch I lowered my gun.  I slowly began to turn my head, hoping that I wouldn't spook the mystery deer standing so close.... and then she comes into view.  "A *&)UCKING SQUIRREL!   Really?!!!"

And just then as if the director in the side wings cued them all, the Pileated Woodpecker began cackling his song over and over that sounds just like an old man laughing and the squirrel that was sitting on the stump started barking and the one that made me think she was a deer, jumps onto a rock and joins in on the chorus of nature's laughter.

I gather my wits.  Laugh at myself and how God has such a great sense of humor and watch the sun begin to set.   And for an encore.... my eyes quickly focuses on a movement coming from a thicket of cedar trees.  I raise my scope and can see one side of what was most definitely a ten point antler.

 "Oh my!"   It looked like he was  rubbing his antlers in the cedar tree. "Come on,  just step out so I can see all of you". He rubbed the cedar tree again and my heart began its ramp up, but quickly stops when yet another squirrel hops off the limb that looked like an antler and proceeded to start the familiar bark of laughter at me again as if to say, "We got you again sucker."

Well,  it was time to quit. I had really enjoyed the game nature had played with me this evening.  The sun was just a shadow and I was about to make my walk back around to our guests on the other side of the hollow and did the number one "hunter mistake".  I had to pee and did it right where I was standing.  Deer have such an amazing sense of smell and anything that has a hint of human scent will almost always keep them far away.  Lucky me.... just as I zipped and looked up.... SeƱor Poppa Buck stepped into my sight.  Look who's laughing now Squirrels!  :-)